Why it was difficult to ‘catch’ the northern lights

Tromso, Norway

My partner and I had one of the amazing experiences travelling to Tromsø (Norway), the northern most city in the world. We flew all the way from Singapore and landed in Oslo on a late November evening of 2019. ‘Twas cool to visit the northernmost city, the northernmost aquarium, the northernmost university until it wasn’t.. we got used to the “northernmost” things in a couple of days time ;)

The main goal of our visit was to catch the northern lights and our friends recommended that it is nice to travel anytime in October to March when there are polar nights and the chances of seeing northern lights are relatively easy. As Google kept so tirelessly targeting me to inform that you need to be away from light pollution to catch the lights, we took it’s advise too into consideration.

This is the picture of northern lights that we captured in a HD camera.

In our quest to see the lights, we travelled from Tromsø to the Santa Claus village in Finland. As we made pit stops, it dawned on me, that it didn’t matter if we were in the middle of a city or nowhere, clear sky was the key to seeing the lights. This cost us hours of time on travel alone and very little time to catch the lights. Although it was not dancing in the sky as you see in the edited photographs promoted by various channels in Instagram… just seeing this teeny tiny aurora made our night :)

However this is the picture taken of the northern lights the next day (PC – a kind stranger who’s travelled from Japan with us to see the lights, Ayako San).

So why is it difficult to catch the lights even as you visit during the polar nights and away from city light pollution? Here are some of the things I learnt during my visit.

Unpredictable Weather

Weather in Tromsø kept changing so fast, that even though we had clear sky at a moment, it was cloudy again in the next few minutes. This made it difficult for us to see the aurora. This was also the reason why we kept moving to different spots (despite the aurora website predicting we’d see the lights by that time).

Don’t rely on iPhone to capture the lights

I firmly believe that cameras don’t capture the beauty of nature as wonderfully as human eyes do. I was wrong, here – cameras are great to capture the lights as opposed to eyes, but DON’T rely on phones. Sure my iPhone produced awesome selfies, but they are dummy to capture the lights.

Plan to chase the lights more than once

The more nights and longer the time you spend chasing the lights, the better are your chances of catching a dancing aurora. This is purely logical and straightforward – the more attempts you make, the better are your chances.

Lessons learnt

Despite catching the lights, had I only visited Norway just for the aurora, I’d have certainly been disappointed. It is because we went on Fjords expedition, walked all over the island of Tromsø, adopted a seal (LOL), hiked from main island to the cable car did we have the best time in Norway. In fact, if I’m being honest, our expedition to the Sommaroy Island through the fjords was a bigger highlight of our trip than catching lights.

I’d urge anyone who’s travelling to Scandinavia to plan for the ‘place’ rather than just the northern lights experience.

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Hamsa

Hamsa

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Hamsa is a curious millennial who seeks the simple meaning behind complexities in life.